7 Steps to Protect Your Privacy at Facebook

Facebook Safety TipsWith over 1 billion Facebook members, it always astonishes me when I run into old friends and others in the 35+ age range who don’t have a Facebook account. I understand why some might not have an account (i.e. employer policy) but when I hear they don’t because they’re scared of the loss of privacy or of identity theft, I have to giggle.

It just takes a few basic steps to protect your privacy and reduce the chances of identity theft. Let’s remember that people toss personal papers into the trash and recycling bins containing far more sensitive, identity-rich data  than a basic Facebook account contains. In other words, you give away more personal information every time you recycle a credit-card offer than most people do in their basic Facebook profiles.

In an age where identity theft is an industry, personal privacy is important. At the same time, it is also an age of communication, networking and social interaction. Wiring virtually 1/7th of the world’s population together, Facebook has become a global directory. If you’re reading this post here but you’re not present there, where exactly are you?

If privacy concerns abut Facebook make you want to scream, take a look at these 7 basic tips and share them with your friends and family. By following these tips they can help to ensure themselves of a safer social experience. By the way, are you practicing all of these “Social Safety Tips”?

1. Unique Email Account –  When registering for Facebook, create a unique email address for your Facebook profile and those in other social networks. Use a disposable email address. You can easily create on Gmail, Outlook.com, or Yahoo Mail. Just forward it to your primary email address for ease of use.*

Why should you do this? Simple, if your Facebook account is ever hacked, the hackers will have stolen your email address and can then have 1 key part of access to most of your online accounts. You can always change your email address at any time, but your social media email address won’t be the primary email address you’re using for banking or bill payments. **

2 Password
a. Create a memorable password, but don’t type it the way it is spelled. Use at least 2 special characters to spell it. For example substitute an ! for either an “i” or “l”, an @ for an “a”, or 8 for a “B”.  Make sure your password has a combination of special characters, upper and lower case letters, and numbers. Also be sure it is at least 7 characters long. Longer email addresses with randomized characters discourage hackers because it takes far too long for their password cracking software to figure out. Hackers are lazy and if you’re a difficult target there is a better than even chance they will pass you by.

b. Don’t write your password anywhere. That’s why I suggested making it memorable like your maternal grandmother’s maiden name, or the name of your best friend in nursery school etc.

c. Set a reminder to in your personal calendar to change your passwords every 90 days or so. If you have the memory, change them every 30 days.

3. Be Selective with Friends – Once you’ve joined Facebook, others will be able to search your name and find your account. Normally this will be current friends, friends from the past and relatives, but occasionally it might be a complete stranger. Why strangers? To some Facebook is a game and to win the game you need the most connections (friends) possible so they connect with everyone. In other rare cases, it can be a scammer trying to make a connection in order to try to win your confidence for a scam at a later date.

This is why, when it comes to Facebook, the best way to protect yourself starts with who you accept friend requests from. Only accept friend requests from people you actually know and trust. After all, they’re going to see everything you post. All too often people accept friendships on Facebook because the person making the request is already a friend of a friend.

Just ask yourself, “Would I let a stranger into my house who knocked on my door because they said they knew a friend of mine?” Most likely not. Always makes sure someone knows this person personally and not just virtually.

4. Account Settings – Go to your Facebook account settings and select Secured Browsing (this  means that some 3rd party programs won’t work with your account). It also ensures anything your sending over the Internet to Facebook is encrypted.

5. Privacy Settings – Go to your Facebook privacy settings and select “Ads, Apps and Websites”.  Then click on Public Search . Make sure public search is disabled. If not Google/Bing can actually index your Facebook posts and people who are not your Facebook friends can search on Facebook and see your posts.

6. Group & Categorize – Once you get comfortable with Facebook you can start setting up list/categories to classify your friends. This will allow you to keep in contact with people and message them, but you also restrict them from seeing some posts. This is ideal if you want to separate social friends from business friends from general acquaintances. You can control if a post is visible to all friends on Facebook (public), or restricted to specific groups of people.

7. Watch What You Post! I give this advice to everyone especially my kids. Don’t post anything on Facebook that you would be embarrassed if your grandmother saw it. My son once asked “Why my grandmother?”  I explained to him, there are things you can talk to me about and he giggled. He’s only ten so when I asked, “Would you want to talk to your Bubbie about it?”, he then turned a deeply embarrassed red.

Simply put, don’t put anything on Facebook that you don’t want the whole world to see or read. You can make it private, but there’s nothing stopping one of your Facebook friends from sharing it with everyone they know in a split second (not out of malice but because they think it’s cute) and from there who knows where it will end up.

Ultimately, Facebook is a great place to connect with old and new friends and family from around the world.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at alan -at- digitalalwaysmedia [dot] com or message me on Facebook.

Now get out there and be social!

*Disposable Email Address: create a unique email addresses that you’ll only use for specific online activities (1 for social media sites another for online contests, etc.). Use one of the many free services that provide this service. The key here is to separate these applications from your primary email address, this way if a spammer gets a hold of it and you start getting too much junk on this email account, you can simply stop using it (dispose of it) by creating a new one and then updating the applications that used it with the new email address.

** Email Forwarding: All of the free email services have a way in their settings to forward any email they receive to another email account. Simply enter your primary email account here. By doing so, you won’t need to log into multiple email accounts to receive messages from applications like Facebook.

Alan K'necht

Alan is a founding partner at Digital Always Media. His focus is on Digital Analytics and Social Media Marketing. Alan's goal "To help business maximize their return of digital marketing by ensuring management knows the data they're receiving is accurate and that their team knows how apply this knowledge correctly.

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